Video: Noise Reduction with Image Stacking

A video tutorial for reducing noise in Milky Way photos with image stacking in Adobe Photoshop CS6 Extended.

Sometimes you just have to accept noisy images for your astrophotos. With astrophotography, you’re typically shooting at high ISO settings, often exceeding ISO 3200. Sometimes this is perfectly acceptable, but depending on your equipment limitations, you may be restricted to lower shutter speeds and smaller apertures where signals are low and noise is high. This video will show you what I do in those situations.

There are a variety of methods for noise reduction including built-in camera settings and noise reduction post processing algorithms such as the ones available in Adobe Lightroom. Let me start by saying that the noise reduction capabilities of Adobe Lightroom and the Nik Dfine 2 plug-in are nothing short of amazing. If you are not already using Lightroom as your RAW processor, you should highly consider it.

 But there are times where your equipment is just too limiting and no matter what you do, the noise just plain terrible. This is where image stacking makes a huge difference in reducing noise in your images. The averaging of even 4 or more separate exposures will do wonders to images that you might have abandoned otherwise. Image stacking is pretty much what all astronomers use for their deep sky images.

Landscape astrophotography presents some challenges with image stacking methods though because we have to deal with relative motion of the stars to the ground. In this video lesson, I show you how I use image stacks of smart objects with a median statistics filter in Adobe Photoshop CS6 to reduce noise in my astrophotos.

64 Replies to “Video: Noise Reduction with Image Stacking”

  1. Hey Ian! It’s been awhile since I got out to do astro, but I always reference back to you video when doing stacking. Unfortunately, the last number of times that I’ve done the same steps as you, the Median Stack mode results never turn out. I don’t know if it’s my processor on my MacBook or not? I’m not forgetting any steps, especially the auto align. I’d love to send you over a PSD for you to try on your end to see if it is just my computer.

    Can I email you the file via we transfer?

  2. hello, i am new at astrophotography, i have a sony a6300 with lens singma 30mm f1.4, i tried to take some photos in my department with some especifications that i saw, 13″ f1.4 and iso 1600 and the photos were white… so i dont know what i did wrong… maybe because i have city light?? o why the photo is white?

    best regards

  3. Hey Ian, thanks for sharing all your knowledge. One question, do you make any edits to the individual files in lightroom before exporting to PS. EG. Lens profile/distortion corrections, chromatic abberation, exposure settings/contrast/clarity?

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